Post-Super Bowl NFL Power Rankings: 2021 is a Pivotal Year for the Vikings

Where do the Vikings stand in early 2021 power rankings and what do they need to do to get back to the playoffs?
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Now that the Super Bowl is over, it's time to officially look ahead to the 2021 season. The next few months will be all about draft preparation, followed by offseason activities (which will presumably be virtual once again) and before you know it, training camp will be right around the corner.

The upcoming season is a big one for the Vikings. Despite signing contract extensions last summer, Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman will feel their seats start to get quite hot if the team can't bounce back from a disappointing 7-9 campaign. Most of the pieces are in place for the Vikings to be a good-to-great team, which increases the pressure to produce results.

As we sit here at the start of the offseason, let's take a look at where the Vikings stand in post-Super Bowl power rankings. Staff: No. 16

Offseason in three or fewer words: Return to contention

Although the Vikings' offense was the most explosive unit Mike Zimmer has had in seven seasons, the defense soured in 2020. Minnesota needs to find some balance so the defense can carry its weight. That'll require more pass-rushers, more defensive backs and carrying this year's experience forward. The cap-strapped Vikings don't look like a team that can make a big splash in free agency, but now's the time to get creative (i.e., with a trade) if they want a serious upgrade at any position –– whether it's on defense or even quarterback. With all the movement going on across the league, why wouldn't Minnesota consider all possible moves, no matter how aggressive, to get back in contention? – Courtney Cronin MMQB Staff: No. 17

The Vikings have made the playoffs in every other year for Mike Zimmer’s entire tenure, a pattern that bodes well for 2021.

SI's voters ranked the Vikings as high as 15th and as low as 21st. Check out the full power ranks here.

Danny Kelly, The Ringer: No. 17

I’m bullish on this team’s offense in 2021 under new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, who inherits an offense helmed by Kirk Cousins and headlined by playmaking stars in Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook. The defense, on the other hand, needs work: After finishing 18th in DVOA last year, the Vikings need to address their wafer-thin pass-rushing group if they have any hope of competing in the NFC North.

Bleacher Report Staff: No. 19

After making the postseason in 2019 (and knocking off the Saints in New Orleans), the Minnesota Vikings took a significant step backward in 2020. That seven-win season has cast doubt on the future of both head coach Mike Zimmer and quarterback Kirk Cousins. Zimmer remains the team's head coach, and he made it clear Cousins remains the team's unquestioned starter under center. "Kirk's our guy," Zimmer told NFL Network. "You know, he had a terrific year this year. We were fourth in the league on offense. We have to get better on defense—we had a lot of injuries and young guys—that's my job to get it fixed." In Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and wide receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, the Vikings have plenty of offensive firepower. And the reality is Cousins' contract makes the notion of releasing or trading him problematic at best and impossible at worst—especially with Minnesota $7.7 million over the projected cap for 2021. If Minnesota is going to contend this year, it has to do something about the league's 29th-ranked scoring defense from last season.

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: No. 20

Mike Zimmer had this team playing better in the second half of the season. With some more additions on defense, and guys getting back healthy, they might be back in the playoff mix next season.

Dan Hanzus, No. 20

A major offseason focus will be improvement and reinforcement in the trenches. The Vikings' defense finished 2020 with the fifth-lowest sack total in the league, while their offensive line delivered a tepid pass-block win rate (56.3%, 18th overall) and allowed Kirk Cousins to be sacked 39 times (sixth-most in football). The return of monster pass rusher Danielle Hunter following a lost season will be a huge lift if the player and team can work out contract issues. That might be the biggest storyline of the next two months in Minnesota.

Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: No. 21

The draft pick of Justin Jefferson was the highlight of Minnesota’s 2020. To get a superstar that late in the first round is a game-changer. The Vikings still have a long way to go and it’s hard to build around a receiver, but Jefferson will be part of Minnesota’s foundation for a long time.

Nate Davis, USA Today: No. 22

Getting Danielle Hunter (neck) and Michael Pierce (opt-out) back on the D-line in 2021 should immediately begin solving a lot of problems.

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: No. 22

The Vikings have become more of an offensive team with Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins, but their defense will require a continued overhaul for Mike Zimmer.

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